The most common symptom of teeth grinding is a headache, and many people don’t even realize they’re doing it. Dr. Patti Swaintek-Lamb specializes in cosmetic and neuromuscular dentistry at Aesthetic Dentistry of Bernardsville, in New Jersey.
She treats patients of all ages who often wake up with a headache. Learn if your frequent headaches could be the result of grinding your teeth while you’re sleeping.
How do I know if I grind my teeth at night?
In addition to waking up with a headache on a regular basis, other signs can indicate whether or not you’re a nocturnal teeth-grinder. Sleep bruxism—the medical term for nighttime teeth grinding—can leave you with muscle aches in your neck and shoulders, as well as stiffness and pain in your jaw. Your headache may feel like a dull ache that starts in your temples, or you may have pain in your face.
You may even have ear pain or trouble sleeping, and your teeth may show signs of abnormal wear. Eventually, and depending on how hard you grind your teeth, they could crack or you may lose a tooth. If left untreated, bruxism can also lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
Although grinding your teeth at night is more common in children than adults, if you had bruxism as a child, you may or may not outgrow it.
Stress causes nocturnal teeth grinding
Adults have daily stress, and along with anxiety, smoking, caffeine, alcohol use, or even depression, these factors can all contribute to sleep disorders and nighttime teeth grinding.
Additionally, those with aggressive or hyperactive personality types, or a competitive nature, may be prone to bruxism. Teeth grinding also tends to run in families.
Teeth grinding can potentially cause migraines
Migraine headache pain usually occurs at the top or side of your head, but it could also come from the base of your skull. When you clench and grind your teeth at night, the muscles in your jaw (your TMJ muscles) tighten.
This causes pain in your jaw which in turn can travel all around your face and skull, leading to headaches or even migraines, in more severe cases. If you suffer from migraines and haven’t found long-term relief, bruxism may be the culprit.
Home remedies may help temporarily
If you wake up with a sore jaw and other symptoms of nighttime teeth grinding, try some home remedies to help relieve stress and pain. Incorporating daily exercise and relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation may help relieve tension and stress so you sleep better and don’t grind your teeth.
Also, if you chew gum, stop. Gum-chewing aggravates your TMJ muscles and jaw, which can make pain and symptoms feel worse. A warm washcloth on your jaw at night can help relax muscles just before bed.
If you consume a considerable amount of caffeine or alcohol throughout the day, try cutting back. It may not relieve all of your pain, but caffeine, especially, intensifies the pain and symptoms of bruxism.
An accurate diagnosis means long-term relief from headache pain
Since grinding your teeth not only affects your teeth, but also your jaw and neck muscles, once you have an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your headaches, you can treat the problem accordingly and get relief from headache pain.
Since Dr. Swaintek-Lamb specializes in neuromuscular dentistry, she knows what to look for when it comes to the signs of teeth grinding and TMJ disorders that lead to frequent headaches.
Based on how your teeth grinding affects the muscles and tissues in your jaw, face, and neck, Dr. Swaintek-Lamb provides treatment options that focus on the underlying cause of your condition, rather than just the outward symptoms.
She treats each patient individually, so your treatment plan may include therapy, injections, or TMJ arthroscopy, depending on your specific issues.
The goal of treating bruxism is caring for your teeth and preventing any further damage, if necessary, as well as relieving your headache or migraine pain long term.
If you’re one of the 60 million adults in the United States that deal with bruxism, and you suffer from frequent headaches, call the friendly, knowledgeable team at Aesthetic Dentistry of Bernardsville, New Jersey, or schedule a consultation online. The sooner you make an appointment, the faster you can get relief from headache pain.